By PATRICK CARUANA
July 23, 2012 8:54PM
MORE than 2500 scientists have backed a push for global action on climate change to save the world's remaining coral reefs.
A consensus statement was released by the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns on Monday, highlighting the damage already done to reefs and urging political leaders to take immediate steps to halt the process.
The statement warns that climate change has already resulted in unprecedented coral bleaching, increased ocean acidification and rises in sea levels.
Approximately 25 per cent of the world's coral reefs have been degraded because of land-based pollution and overfishing, the statement says.
"The international coral reef science community calls on all governments to ensure the future of coral reefs, through global action to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," it says.
Stanford University professor of biological sciences Steve Palumbi says scientists have done all they can to describe the severity of the problem and the solutions now rest with political leaders.
"To be honest, it's really difficult," Professor Palumbi told reporters.
"It's a turning of a corner. It's scientists giving up control.
"Our game plan is to be with the world leaders whenever they will have us and say, 'Here's what we can do'."
Prof Palumbi said local solutions would also help individual reefs "buy time" against the dangers of climate change.
"Protecting local reefs is an incredibly important start," he said.
"That includes protecting those reefs from sedimentation which chokes them, from pollution which strangles them, and overfishing which allows algae to grow."
The convener of the symposium and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Terry Hughes, said Australia's Great Barrier Reef was a prime example of a reef in need of protection.
"Unfortunately, in Queensland, the rush to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as quickly as possible ... has pushed environmental concerns far into the background," Prof Hughes said.